The biggest portion of the 2006 bond measure earmarked $168 million for land acquisition by Metro.
Since 2007, when acquisitions began, more than 5,400 acres have been acquired and protected – significantly surpassing the original goal of about 4,000 acres.
Thanks to voters, Metro has been able to protect some of the last swathes of native prairies, wetlands and other valuable habitat – home to rare plants and endangered or threatened fish and wildlife. Other properties fill key gaps in regional trails, providing connections for commuters, bicyclists and joggers.
Every property Metro buys is within one of 27 specific target areas set out in the bond measure that voters approved.
Some of the sites are in urban areas, providing opportunities for people to connect with nature close to home. Others are a little outside of urban areas, protecting important habitat types or protecting drinking water for local residents.
The bond measure’s local share program has also allowed cities, counties and parks providers throughout the region to acquire land close to home so people can connect to nature in their neighborhoods.
Clear Creek acquisition protects native oaks, fills critical gaps
Metro in April 2016 acquired a 30-acre property near Clear Creek in Clackamas County that will protect high-value Oregon white oak and savanna habitat.
The latest acquisition brings Metro’s Clear Creek Natural Area to 511 acres, protecting a large, significant area for water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. A separate Clear Creek North Natural Area a short distance north provides an additional 69 acres of publicly protected habitat.
Future restoration efforts at the new acquisition will focus on improving habitat for Oregon white oaks, which is estimated to now cover about 7 percent of its original range in the Willamette Valley. Restoration work will likely include strategic removal of some Douglas firs in the former Christmas tree farm to provide more sunlight for the oaks. Invasive plants such as English holly, Scotch broom and Armenian blackberry will also be removed.
In particular, the new property could help Western meadowlarks, Oregon’s state bird, which has declined in population in recent years. Western meadowlarks generally need 20-acre blocks of habitat for nesting, said Brian Vaughn, a senior natural resources scientist at Metro.
“This acquisition preserves important Oregon white oak habitat and lets us expand restoration efforts to benefit western meadowlark,” Vaughn said. “This gives them enough room to feel safe from predators because they nest on the ground. Size does matter because the more land we have in big blocks and left open as savanna habitat, the more opportunities there are for nesting,”
Elk, deer, coyotes and other animals are also likely to use the new site.
The new acquisition helps fill a significant gap at the natural area. Metro had previously acquired land that borders the new site on three sites.
The new acquisition “was probably one of the biggest gaping holes in our system,” said Ryan Ruggiero, a Metro real estate negotiator who coordinated the acquisition.
The new property cost $338,000 and was paid for with money from the voter-approved 2006 natural areas bond measure.
Sellwood Gap on Springwater Trail shrinking after Metro investments
One of the last gaps on the Springwater Corridor Trail is moving closer to completion, with a construction project in summer 2016.
Metro acquired easements from the Oregon Pacific Railroad in 2010 to enable the completion of the trail from Southeast Umatilla Street to Southeast 13th Avenue in Portland's Sellwood neighborhood. Money from the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program, Regional Flexible Funds and Portland development fees are paying for construction. That project should be completed by the end of the year.
Last year, the Metro Council approved an agreement with the railroad to allow for trail construction on another segment of the so-called Sellwood Gap, from Southeast 13th to 17th avenues. As a part of that $1 million agreement, the railroad tracks would be moved a few feet to the south to allow for a future trail to be built next to the railway. A timeline hasn't been established for trail construction from 13th to 17th avenues.
The Springwater Corridor is a 21-mile bike and pedestrian trail between OMSI in Portland and the community of Boring in Clackamas County. Its eastern segments are built on an abandoned railroad, but the segment from Sellwood to Portland is next to the Oregon Pacific line.
Much of the trail is managed by local parks departments, primarily Portland's Parks & Recreation Bureau.
Once the 13th to 17th segment is complete, only 400 feet – from Southeast 17th to 19th avenues in Sellwood – will remain as a gap in the trail.